Photo of Allena Gabosch by David Steinberg
This is a photo of my dear cousin, Allena. She is celebrated as an icon in the world of sex positivity, and deservedly so. Her love and acceptance for literally everyone, created a large community of kinky, poly, queer and trans individuals, drawn to her huge heart and her infectious laughter. My cousin was a fierce advocate for sexual minorities and as such she was the living, breathing embodiment of a Shame Free Zone.
And she is a powerful role model for how we can turn our traumas into strengths that help make the world a better place.
Fortunately we both found our way out of that oppression and into a world of healing and joy. Our paths to that healing were different, but our lives often ran parallel in uncanny ways. And our activism and work brought us together over and over again.
Coming from a family steeped in evangelical Christianity where even dancing is a sin, we repeatedly found ourselves being called to the altar or admonished to profess Jesus as our personal savior, by relatives who had never made amends for the abuses they had inflicted. It was infuriating.
And yet, with each other’s support and love, we were able to deflect the suspicion and scapegoating with a smile. They really couldn’t touch us with their shaming tactics. We had seen the promised land and it was not the sterile heaven our uncles and aunts preached about. It was instead liberation from shame and the practice of unconditional love.
Despite our unconditional love for our family members, they treated us like outcasts in many ways. More tolerated than loved, it was only natural that we would adopt a chosen family. Allena had her chosen family. I had mine. And although chosen families are beautiful, the fact that she and I shared DNA, that we were related AND we chose each other as family, brought its own healing. We saw each other. We accepted each other. We loved each other unconditionally.
Saying goodbye is never easy. But in this case, it is particularly hard. Not only did I lose my only blood relative whom I also claim as my chosen family; I was also denied one last hug and kiss as you will see in this article.
I love you Allena.
Your cousin, Veronica